Poem: On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keefe

I love Georgia O’Keefe’s quirky paintings and perspective.  She did a lot of work using skulls, which seems quite natural. New Mexico must yield all sorts of bones in the mountains and deserts. Just as she studied and painted flowers, so she did the same with animal bones and skulls. She was very prolific in her work, painting a skull or pelvis in many views, often accompanied by a flower or other desert item. Many didn’t like her bone paintings, but that didn’t deter her in the slightest. Even her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, was initially critical of them. He later relented, as did most critics. To find beauty in death and decomposition and to create art that is somehow mesmerizing and thoughtful is quite an accomplishment.

This poem is from my chapbook (Erasing the Doubt (c) 2015, Finishing Line Press). It is hidden amongst just a few of these wonderful paintings.

okeefe and skull

Georgia O’Keefe and cow skull

 

 

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Bob’s Steer Head by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936

Cow's Skull with Roses

Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1931

 

 

 

On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe

 

  1. The Artist’s View of the Skull as Form

 

The sinuous curve
hollowed circle
smooth chalky bone
worn smooth, it goes
beyond the form
behind the slow dip
of the arching eye
twisting and curving
back on itself

 

2. The Skull’s Perspective

 

At first it all felt wrong,
reversed, bent forward
in a geometric embrace
of mass and space,
the brush stroke
through the hollow eye
that will never see,
beyond to the delicate shell
of the brain
that will never again think,
moving slowly
into that shadow of light
the sky insinuates itself in color
and it is there
that you alone can wander,
deep inside the form that is me

 

Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Skull with Hollyhock, in 1935

Georgia O’Keeffe, Ram’s Skull with Hollyhock, (c) 1935

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Deer’s Skull with Pedernal by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936

 

 

Compassion (a poem about depression)

Depression is not very pretty. Nor is it very kind. It has many faces, and it comes and goes as it pleases. It can affect almost anyone. If you are someone who has struggled with depression, you know it never goes away completely but hides, waiting for the right moment to reappear. It isn’t something to be lightly dismissed in yourself or in others who suffer from it. Who hasn’t seen the devastating effect it can have on a vulnerable person? I’ve struggled with it, and I’ve certainly known many others who were also affected by it.

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Watching someone you love battle depression is never easy. It isn’t easily “fixed,” even in this age of modern medicine. Therapy and medicines are there, and for some people they help so much, but for others, less so. Compassion, patience, unconditional love and presence are the lifelines we can offer…to someone else and to ourselves.

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To listen to me read this poem, please click on the link below. It will take a minute to begin.

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Compassion

 

Taking on your pain was something
I tried to do, like slipping on your
jacket, pushing an arm in and then
another, pulling it tight around myself,
hoping that by feeling what you do,
it would diminish your pain.

 

No matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t a fit.
Your depression fell around me in loose
folds, the sadness sagging around my heart.
Besides, it would leave you cold, open
to the fickle winds that blew your way.

 

 

Compassion was first published in Erasing the Doubt by Mary Kendall
(Finishing Line Press © 2015)

 

 

 

Bell flowers ~

 

 

1-campanula painting

   Campanula sp, Blue Bellflower. – Watercolour by Greta Mulligan (Australia)

I was very fortunate to have one of my haiku included in the May 2016 issue of brass bell: a haiku journal, curated by Zee Zahava. This month’s theme was Small Things.  To read all the other excellent haiku, please visit:         http://brassbellhaiku.blogspot.com

 

 

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Bluebirds…

I recently had one tanka published in Skylark: A Tanka Journal. I’m thrilled to have a poem selected for publication by Claire Everett, the editor. She is one of the world’s foremost tanka poets and one whose work I love and admire.

 

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skylark